Monthly Archives: April 2011

Inclusivist Theologians

Below is a list of well known preachers and apologists that have advocated inclusivism.  The list demonstrates that inclusivism is not a modern innovation.  Inclusivists hold that the only way to be saved is through Jesus Christ, but that it is also possible to be justified through Christ without explicit or complete knowledge of who he is.  Inclusivism is contrasted with restritivism.  Restrictivists believe that people without knowledge of Christ are damned by necessity.

Justin Martyr,  103–165:  “We have been taught that Christ is the first-born of God, and we have declared above that He is the Word of whom every race of men were partakers; and those who lived reasonably are Christians, even though they have been thought atheists; as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus, and men like them; and among the barbarians, Abraham, and Ananias, and Azarias, and Misael, and Elias, and many others…” (The First Apology 46)

Clement of Alexandria, 150-215 Accordingly, before the advent of the Lord, philosophy was necessary to the Greeks for righteousness. And now it becomes conducive to piety; being a kind of preparatory training to those who attain to faith through demonstration. “For thy foot,” it is said, “will not stumble, if thou refer what is good, whether belonging to the Greeks or to us, to Providence.” For God is the cause of all good things; but of some primarily, as of the Old and the New Testament; and of others by consequence, as philosophy. Perchance, too, philosophy was given to the Greeks directly and primarily, till the Lord should call the Greeks. For this was a schoolmaster to bring “the Hellenic mind,” as the law, the Hebrews, “to Christ.” Philosophy, therefore, was a preparation, paving the way for him who is perfected in Christ. “ (Stromata 1,5)

Origen, 185–254: “I reply that there was never a time when God did not want men to be just; he was always concerned about that. Indeed, he always provided beings endowed with reason with occasions for practicing virtue and doing what is right. In every generation the Wisdom of God descended into those souls which he found holy and made them to be prophets and friends of God.” (Against Celsus, Chapter 7)

Erasmus, 1466 – 1536: “Sacred scripture is of course the basic authority for everything; yet I sometimes run across ancient sayings or pagan writings – even the poets – so purely and reverently and admirably expressed that I can’t help believing the author’s hearts were moved by some divine power.  And perhaps the spirit of Christ is more widespread than we understand, and the company of the saints includes many not on our calander.” (Erasmus, The Godly Feast)

Martin Luther, 1483 – 1546: Whoever fulfills the Law is in Christ, and he receives grace because as much as he is able he has prepared himself for it. Original sin God could forgive them [the unevangelized]  (even though they may not have recognized it and confessed it) on account of some act of humility towards God as the highest being that they know. Neither were they bound to the Gospel and to Christ as specifically recognized, as the Jews were not either. Or one can say that all people of this type have been given so much light and grace by an act of prevenient mercy of God as is sufficient for their salvation in their situation, as in the case of Job, Naaman, Jethro, and others…”They have therefore fulfilled the Law. Whatever was lacking (and for this lack they are excused on account of their invincible ignorance) God in His forbearance without doubt supplied so that it might be made perfect through Christ in the future. This is not different from what He did for the children who were uncircumcised and killed for His sake (cf. Matt. 2:16). He does the same thing today for our children.” (Luther, commentary on Romans, see Romans 2:10)

Ulrich Zwingli, Protestant Reformer,  1484-1531:   Zwingli believed that the righteous heathen would be saved, calling them “unconscious Christians”. He  taught that Greek philosophers such as Socrates and Plato were saved, and called them “pre-Christians”.   He also was alone among the Reformers in holding that unbaptized infants were saved.  (see History of the Christian Church, Philip Schaff)   “Then you may hope to see [in heaven] the whole company and assemblage of all the saints, the wise, the faithful, brave, and good who have lived since the world began. Here you will see the two Adams, the redeemed and the redeemer, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, Phineas, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, and the Virgin Mother of God of whom he prophesied, David, Hezekiah, Josiah, the Baptist, Peter, Paul; here too, Hercules, Theseus, Socrates, Aristides, Antigonus, Numa, Camillus, the Catos and Scipios; here Louis the Pious, and your predecessors, the Louis, Philips, Pepins, and all your ancestors who have gone hence in faith. In short there has not been a good man and will not be a holy heart or faithful soul from the beginning of the world to the end thereof that you will not see in heaven with God.” (Zwingli, Exposition of the Christian Faith, see page 16)

Jacob Arminius, Dutch Reformer, 1560-1609: “The ordinary means and instrument of conversation is the preaching of the Divine word by mortal men, to which therefore all persons are bound; but the Holy Spirit has not so bound himself to this method, as to be unable to operate in an extraordinary way, without the intervention of human aid, when it seemeth good to Himself….this very common sentence obtains our high approval…What peril or error can there be in any man saying, “God converts great numbers of persons, (that is, very many) by the internal revelation of the Holy Spirit or by the ministry of angels; “provided it be at the same time stated, that no one is converted except by this very word, and by the meaning of this word, which God sends by men to those communities or nations whom He hath purposed to unite to himself. The objectors will perhaps reply, “It is to be feared, that, if a nation of those who have been outwardly called should believe this, rejecting external preaching, they would expect such an internal revelation or the address of an angel.” Truly, this would be as unnatural a subject of fear, as that a man would be unwilling to taste of the bread which was laid before him, because he understands, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” But I desist; lest, while instituting an examination into the causes of this fear, I should proceed much further, and arrive at a point to which our brethren might be unwilling for me on this occasion to advance. A word is sufficient for the wise.” (The Works of Arminius, Volume 1, Article 8)

John Milton,  Puritan, 1608-1674: “…it ought not to appear wonderful if many, both Jews and others, who lived before Christ, and many also who have lived since his time, but to whom he has never been revealed, should be saved by faith in God alone: still however, through the sole merits of Christ, inasmuch as he was given and slain from the beginning of the world, even for those to whoe he was not known, provided they  believed in God the Father.” (A Treatise on Christian Doctrine,  XX)

Robert Barclay, Quaker, 1648-1690:Therefore “Christ hath tasted death for every man:” not only for all kinds of men, as some vainly talk, but for every one, of all kinds; the benefit of whose offering is not only extended to such, who have the distinct outward knowledge of his death and sufferings, as the same is declared in the scriptures, but even unto those who are necessarily excluded from the benefit of this knowledge by some inevitable accident;” (Barclay, Apology for True Christian Divinity, Proposition 6)

John Wesley, 1703-1791:I believe the merciful God regards the lives and tempers of men more than their ideas. I believe he respects the goodness of the heart rather than the clearness of the head; and that if the heart of a man be filled (by the grace of God, and the power of his Spirit) with the humble, gentle, patient love of God and man, God will not cast him into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels because his ideas are not clear, or because his conceptions are confused. Without holiness, I own, “no man shall see the Lord;” but I dare not add, “or clear ideas.”  (Wesley On Living Without God, 15.)

William Shed, Presbyterian, 1820-1894:That some unevangelized men are saved, in the present life, by an extraordinary exercise of redeeming grace in Christ, has been the hope and belief of Christendom. It was the hope and belief of the elder Calvinists, as of the later.”

Augustus Strong, Reformed Baptist, 1836-1921 Since Christ is the Word of God and the Truth of God, he may be received even by those who have not heard of his manifestation in the flesh…We have, therefore. the hope that even among the heathen there may be some, like Socrates, who, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit working through the truth of nature and conscience, have found the way of life and salvation.” (Strong, Outlines of Systematic Theology)

C.S. Lewis, Apologist, 1898-1963: “…But the truth is God has not told us what His arrangements about the other [unreached] people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.” (Lewis, Mere Christianity)

Dale Moody, Southern Baptist, 1915-1992:It is possible to say that this general revelation of God has only a negative function that leaves man without excuse. But what kind of God is he who gives man enough knowledge to damn him but not enough to save him? The perception of God in creation has both negative and positive possibilities.” (Moody, The Word of Truth, p59)

Billy Graham, Evangelist, 1918-  “I think that everybody that loves Christ knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they’re members of the body of Christ… Whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the body of Christ because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their hearts they need something that they don’t have and they turn to the only light they have and I think they’re saved and they’re going to be with us in heaven.”(Billy Graham, Interview with Robert Schuller)

William Lane Craig, Apologist, 1949-  ” But the Bible says that the unreached will be judged on a quite different basis than those who have heard the gospel. God will judge the unreached on the basis of their response to His self-revelation in nature and conscience. The Bible says that from the created order alone, all persons can know that a Creator God exists and that God has implanted His moral law in the hearts of all persons so that they are held morally accountable to God (Rom. 1.20; 2.14-15). The Bible promises salvation to anyone who responds affirmatively to this self-revelation of God (Rom. 2.7)..” (Craig, Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?)

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12 Ways to Make Arminianism Cool Again

Some of these are pretty funny.  I especially like #9.  Rachael Held Evans: 12 Ways to Make Arminianism Cool Again.

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Article on How Calvinism is Inconsistent With the New Testament

Below is a link to a good article that argues that the philosophical assumptions of Calvinism are inconsistent with the New Testament.  HT: Arminian Perspectives

Calvinism and Problematic Readings of New Testament Texts Or, Why I Am Not a Calvinist, by Glen Shellrude.  Dr. Shellrude is Professor of New Testament at Alliance Theological Seminary in New York City.

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Podcast with Roger Olson

Here’s a podcast that Roger Olson recently did:  Homebrewed Christianity podcast with Roger Olson.  Running time is one hour.  The interview starts at 6:45, and you won’t miss much if you fast forward to that point.

They discuss Calvinism, Arminianism, Open Theism, Rob Bell, post mortem salvation, homosexuality, fundamentalism, and a bunch of other “hot” topics. :)

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The Bible and John Wesley

Wesleyan scholar Randy Maddox has written an excellent article about the way John Wesley studied, interpreted, and preached from the Bible.   It’s entitled: ” The Rule of Christian Faith, Practice, and Hope: John Wesley on the Bible (1)” (free registration required).  This article is well worth the read.

Here’s a quick summary:

  • Wesley never preached from the apocrypha, even though it was included in the KJV during his time.
  • The Wesleys (John and Charles) utilized a number of translations, including: the Geneva Bible, Luther’s German Bible, and others.
  • The Wesleys studied the Greek and Hebrew texts, they considered the primary languages more authoritative than the KJV.
  • Wesley firmly held that scripture was inspired, however, he believed that it was not always exact on “tangential matters” (genealogies, for example).  Wesley argued that the Bible was “infallibly true”.  The word “inerrancy” was not in use in his time.
  • Wesley believed that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was key to understanding the Bible. “we need the same Spirit to understand the Scripture which enabled the holy men of old to write it.”
  • Wesley preached nearly the entire Biblical canon,  including extensive Old Testament preaching.  There are records(2) that show he preached from all books except: Esther, Song of Songs, Obadiah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Philemon, and 3 John.
  • Wesley read the Bible in conference with others. “If any doubt still remains (understanding a difficult passage), I consult those who are experience in the things of God, and then the writings whereby being dead, they yet speak.”
  • Wesley valued the writings of early Christian writers, particularly those of the first three centuries of the church.
  • Wesley read the Bible in conference with the “Rule of Faith”.   He held strongly to the Apostle’s Creed.  What the historical church had spoken on certain matters (such as the Trinity) was important in his thinking.
  • Wesley focused on the value and nature of creation.  He believed that God wanted to redeem all of creation.
  • Wesley was convinced that God’s love for all of humanity was the central teaching of scripture.  He described 1 John 4:19 as “the sum of the whole gospel”.   We love him because he first loved us.   He called First John  “the compendium of all the Holy Scriptures”.  He also frequently referred to Psalm 145:9. The Lord is loving to all, and his mercy is over all his works.
  • Wesley’s favorite passages (as evidenced by the frequency he preached from them) were the book of First John, the book of Romans, 1 Corinthians 13, and Matthew 5-7 (The Sermon on the Mount).
  • Wesley read the Bible because it was the guide to Christian belief, the guide to Christian behavior, and hope and sustenance for the believer.

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(1) Randy Maddox,  The Rule of Christian Faith, Practice, and Hope: John Wesley on the Bible, Methodist Review, Volume 3, 2011 (Free registration required).

(2) The Center for Studies in the Wesleyan Tradition has compiled a register of all the passages of scripture that John Wesley preached from (that we have record of).   For sources, they used Wesley’s journals, works, and letters.

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Inclusivism: Myths and Realities

With the release of Rob Bell’s book, there has been more conversation on the topic of inclusivism.  There are a number of myths out there about what inclusivism entails, and the aim of this post is to correct some of the misconceptions.

Inclusivists hold that the only way to be saved is through Jesus Christ.  Perhaps more controversially, inclusivists also hold that it is possible to be justified through Christ without explicit or complete knowledge of who he is.

Now on to the myths…

Inclusivism is the same as Universalism: Universalism teaches that all will be saved, and that there is no hell.  Inclusivism teaches that many people will perish and spend eternity in hell.

Inclusivism is the same as Pluralism: Pluralism teaches that all religions are equally good and lead to God.  Inclusivism teaches that salvation is only through Jesus.  Inclusivism teaches that God justifies some heathens despite their religion, not because of it.

Inclusivists hold to Annihalitionism: Annihalationism is the belief that hell is not eternal.  It is unrelated to inclusivism.  Many inclusivists believe that hell is eternal.   Likewise, there are exclusivists who hold to annihalationism.

Inclusivism is Philosophical Rather than Scriptural: It is true that Inclusivism is not explicitly taught in scripture.  The same is true of the doctrine of the Trinity.  Like the Trinity, inclusivism is a view that is arrived at with a plenary reading of scripture.  Inclusivism flows out of a Biblical understanding that God is love and desires to reconcile everyone to himself.    Some verses inclusivists point to (paraphrased): God shows no favoritism, but accepts people everywhere who fear him.  God did not send Jesus to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Jesus is the propitiation not just for our sins, but for the sins of the whole world. When Jesus is lifted up he will draw all men to himself.  The servant who does not know his master’s will is beaten with few blows.   A multitude that no one can count from every tribe and nation will be before the throne.

Inclusivists hold to Post Mortem Grace: Post mortem grace is the teaching we have an opportunity to be saved after we die.  Thus, it is possible to be saved after spending time in purgatory.   Inclusivism and post mortem grace are entirly seperate issues.  Many inclusivists (myself included) believe that all people will be judged at the time of death.

Inclusivism Takes Away the Motivation to Evangelize: Inclusivists do not believe that heathens have an equal chance to be justified.  Heathens are rather to be pitied than blamed for the narrowness of their faith (Wesley).  The more heathens know about Jesus, the better for them, because Jesus is the light of the world.  And many inclusivists have had a heart for evangelism.  Billy Graham, DL Moody, and John Wesley are examples.

Inclusivism Devalues the Cross: Inclusivists believe it is possible to be justified only because Jesus died and shed his blood for all mankind.

Inclusivists are Theological Liberals: The term “liberal” is often used as pejorative rather than a descriptive term.  Many inclusivists are theologically conservative, and are wary of modernism and its influence on Christianity.   Inclusivists affirm a high view of scripture, hold to the deity of Christ, are typically Trinitarian,  believe in the resurrection, believe in miracles, believe in the supernatural, etc. Inclusivists such as C.S. Lewis have been instrumental in the defense of Christianity against liberals.  Other inclusivists such as Wesley and Zwingli, predate the advent of modernism and the associated debate.

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Some more for fun:

Inclusivists love Rob Bell: True.  All inclusivists love Rob Bell, Brian McClaren, Tony Campolo, and Jim Wallis.   And of course Gandhi.

Inclusivists want to set up disco balls in your church sanctuary:  True.  Inclusivists think the Village People will be in heaven.

Inclusivists want to sell books and make lots of money: False.  Inclusivists are Democrats, and hate capitalism.  If they find any money, they give it to NPR.

Inclusivists want to bake children in matzo bread: True. By baking children in Matzo bread, inclusivists ensure that  children go to eternal paradise by dying before the age of accountability.  Yum.

Inclusivists voted for Obama: Don’t make me hit you.

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Wesley the Inclusivist

It appears that John Wesley was what might be called a “hopeful inclusivist”.  An inclusivist is one who believes that we are saved only through Jesus, however, it is possible to be saved through Jesus without explicit and/or complete knowledge of him.  The following quotes from Wesley give insight to his leanings.  Take special note of Sermon 106, On Faith.

[4-7-11 Post updated to include some additional quotes]

Muslims:

….I have no authority from the Word of God “to judge those that are without.” Nor do I conceive that any man living has a right to sentence all the heathen and Mahometan world to damnation. It is far better to leave them to him that made them, and who is “the Father of the spirits of all flesh;” who is the God of the Heathens as well as the Christians, and who hateth nothing that he hath made. Sermon 125: On Living Without God, point 14.

Heathens and Muslims:

It cannot be doubted, but this plea [lack of  knowledge] will avail for millions of modern Heathens. Inasmuch as to them little is given, of them little will be required. As to the ancient Heathens, millions of them, likewise were savages. No more therefore will be expected of them, than the living up to the light they had. But many of them, especially in the civilized nations, we have great reason to hope, although they lived among Heathens, yet were quite of another spirit; being taught of God, by His inward voice, all the essentials of true religion. Yea, and so was that Mahometan, and Arabian, who, a century or two ago, wrote the Life of Hai Ebn Yokdan. The story seems to be feigned; but it contains all the principles of pure religion and undefiled. Sermon 106, On Faith, I 4.

Heathens, Muslims, Jews:

But with Heathens, Mahometans, and Jews we have at present nothing to do; only we may wish that their lives did not shame many of us that are called Christians. We have not much more to do with the members of the Church of Rome. But we cannot doubt, that many of them, like the excellent Archbishop of Cambray, still retain (notwithstanding many mistakes) that faith that worketh by love. Sermon 106, On Faith, II 3.

Modern Jews:

It is not so easy to pass any judgment concerning the faith of our modern Jews. It is plain, “the veil is still upon their hearts” when Moses and the Prophets are read. The god of this world still hardens their hearts, and still blinds their eyes, “lest at any time the light of the glorious gospel” should break in upon them. So that we may say of this people, as the Holy Ghost said to their forefathers, “The heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed ; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” (Acts 28:27.) Yet it is not our part to pass sentence upon them, but to leave them to their own Master. Sermon 106, On Faith, I 6.

Heathens Who have Never Heard of Christ:

But one considerable difficulty still remains: There are very many heathen nations in the world that have no intercourse, either by trade or any other means, with Christians of any kind. Such are the inhabitants of the numerous islands in the South Sea, and probably in all large branches of the ocean. Now, what shall be done for these poor outcasts of men “How shall they believe,” saith the Apostle, “in Him of whom they have not heard And how shall they hear without a preacher” You may add, “And how shall they preach, unless they be sent” Yea, but is not God able to send them Cannot he raise them up, as it were, out of the stones And can he ever want means of sending them No: Were there no other means, he can “take them by his Spirit,” as he did Ezekiel. (Ezek. 3:12,) or by his angel, as he did Philip, (Acts 8,) and set them down wheresoever it pleaseth him. Yea, he can find out a thousand ways to foolish man unknown. And he surely will: For heaven and earth may pass away; but his word shall not pass away: He will give his Son “the uttermost part of the earth for his possession.” Sermon 63, The General Spread of the Gospel, 24.

Indians (from India), Pakistanis, Pacific Islanders:

We cannot account for his present dealings with the inhabitants of the earth. We know, “the Lord is loving unto every man, and his mercy is over all his works.” But we know not how to reconcile this with the present dispensations of his providence. At this day, is not almost every part of the earth full of darkness and cruel habitations In what a condition, in particular, is the large and populous empire of Indostan! How many hundred thousands of the poor, quiet people, have been destroyed, and their carcases left as the dung of the earth! in what a condition (though they have no English ruffians there) are the numberless islands in the Pacific Ocean! How little is their state above that of wolves and bears! And who careth either for their souls or their bodies But does not the Father of men care for them O mystery of providence! Sermon 69 – The Imperfection Of Human Knowledge. II 4

Those with Distorted Ideas of who Christ is:

Perhaps there may be some well-meaning persons who carry this farther still; who aver, that whatever change is wrought in men, whether in their hearts or lives, yet if they have not clear views of those capital doctrines, the fall of man, justification by faith, and of the atonement made by the death of Christ, and of his righteousness transferred to them, they can have no benefit from his death. I dare in no wise affirm this. Indeed I do not believe it. I believe the merciful God regards the lives and tempers of men more than their ideas. I believe he respects the goodness of the heart rather than the clearness of the head; and that if the heart of a man be filled (by the grace of God, and the power of his Spirit) with the humble, gentle, patient love of God and man, God will not cast him into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels because his ideas are not clear, or because his conceptions are confused. Without holiness, I own, “no man shall see the Lord;” but I dare not add, “or clear ideas.” Sermon 125: On Living Without God, 15.

Roman Catholics:

…the faith of the Roman Catholics, in general, seems to be above that of the ancient Jews. If most of these are volunteers in faith, believing more than God has revealed, it cannot be denied that they believe all which God has revealed, as necessary to salvation. In this we rejoice on their behalf… Sermon 106, On Faith, I 7

 

 

 

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